Let me first say that I like Bill Maher... a lot. I think his HBO show, Real Time, is first rate. His panel is always lively and informative. I agree with Bill, or can at least sympathize with his view, most of the time.
I am looking forward to seeing Bill's movie, Religulous, but reading some of the reviews I understand that I probably won't hear much different than what I have picked up on Real Time. Unfortunately, what I hear from Bill is well intended but backwards. Maher, like many atheists, believes that religion is the root of what ails us. If we could just do away with Religion, we would have a better world. I disagree with this view on many theological fronts, but let me give a non-theistic reason for disagreeing. I believe Maher is looking at an effect and calling it cause. Religion does not drive our dysfunction, it is merely the vehicle for much of it. If religion is not available, we will find many other things to demean and kill each other over. Like the Sneetches in Dr. Seuss, if the other group gets stars too, we will have ours removed. The stars are not the point. The point is the need to have an outside group, to have someone to be against, to beat, to conquer.
My friend and fellow blogger, Brook, made this point in a recent blog. He writes that most people today treat opposing viewpoints as if it were a sports competition. The other side does not need to be conversed with or understood... they need to be beaten.
I think Bill ends up supporting the very attitude he would like to see go away. I understand his frustration (and I often succumb to it myself), but his approach is just perpetuating the problem.
As Ghandi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."